The US State Department has denied that Secretary of State John Kerry sought direct talks with representatives of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime on the sidelines of the recent international peace conference in Geneva.
Syria's Foreign Minister Wali Muallem had earlier claimed that US officials were lobbying for separate talks, which were denied because Kerry falied to apologise for earlier remarks on Syria.
"The Americans asked us to negotiate directly with them in Montreux. But we refused to do so before Secretary of State John Kerry apologised for what he said at the conference," Muallem told Syria's state run SANA during his flight home from Switzerland.
Refuting such claims, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki released a statement saying: "At no point did the United States offer to negotiate directly with the Syrian regime and at no point will Secretary Kerry ever apologise for speaking the truth about the brutality the Assad regime has inflicted on the people of Syria."
Psaki insisted the Obama administration officials had offered to hold "staff level" talks with Syrian delegates at the Geneva II peace conference through UN representatives in order to end the suffering of Syrians.
The UN-backed international negotiations brought the officials of the Syrian regime and the rebel groups face to face for the first time since the conflict broke out. However, the week-long intense discussions failed to yield any breakthrough but kept the doors open for further talks.
The next rounds of talks is scheduled to begin on 10 February. Anti-Assad delegates have already confirmed their attendance, but Assad's representatives have not.